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Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Mount Adams/South Spur

Epic one-day scramble of Washington’s second highest peak with perfect conditions and great camaraderie.

  • Road recommended for high clearance only

The Pacific Northwest was in the midst of a record-breaking heat advisory. Freezing level was above 16,000’. Summit temperature was forecast in the upper 40’s, but fortunately wind was forecast light. Portland was triple digits. I had just completed a challenging climb of Little Tahoma. I was concerned about sloppy snow and my team’s lack of experience above 10,000’. I planned it as an early alpine start with a slow, steady pace to mitigate snow conditions and altitude sickness. I even gave them the option of turning it into an overnight trip, camping at Lunch Counter, but everyone wanted to stick with a one day push.

We carpooled the day before from Gig Harbor about 2:30pm, stopping in Trout Lake at Mt Adams Pizza before heading to Cold Springs Campground. We also stopped at several spots along the way for breathtaking photos of the sunset on Mount Adams. 

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The final 3-mile road had been reported as very bad. Although high-clearance vehicles were definitely needed, I’ve been on worse roads. We setup camp and immediately went to bed. We feared it would be hot, but it ended up being comfortable in the 60’s. I woke up at 2am to the sound of deer foraging near my tent. We got up for a planned 3am departure. We were concerned about water availability, reportedly nothing above 6,500’. We brought a stove for emergency purposes, but everyone started with 4L which ended up being plenty. I encouraged everyone to use electrolytes for the warm day.

The trail was snow-free until just past Round-the-Mtn trail. I had been told snow would be continuous upon reaching, so I brought aluminum crampons. This ended up being wrong and tedious due to mixed snow and rock conditions until the high traverse at 7,400’ on the summer route. We were pleasantly surprised that the snow was nearly perfect, just firm enough for easy travel with crampons. It was fascinating to watch the shadow of Mount Adams to the west as the sun rose.

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We took short rest breaks every hour, then a longer one at Lunch Counter just before the big ascent to Pikers Peak. We could clearly see the glissade chute we would experience later.

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Up we went, keeping a slow, steady rest-step pace. We took another break at Pikers Peak before the final push.

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The summit was absolutely beautiful. Bluebird sky seeing as far south as Mount Jefferson, but most noticeable was the wind being completely calm. Mount St Helens stood to the west. I gazed upon Mount Rainier and Little Tahoma to the north, which I summited just five days earlier. We took group photos and enjoyed a long lunch break.

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By this time, the snow had softened just enough to make easy plunge stepping without too much post-holing. We took glissade chutes wherever we could find them, but the best was obviously the one descending from Pikers Peak. It had been carved out like a slide in a water park. I was so glad I brought my Nor Hex Scooty Booty! This was definitely the best glissade I’ve had yet. We found another fun one much lower leading down into a bowl rather than taking the traverse at 7,400’

It ended up being 7 hr 30 min from camp to summit, and 11 hr 18 min total c2c. Such a fun day with Mike, Erik, Cameron and Bobby! Mike had some delicious watermelon waiting for us in his cooler, which was the cherry on top. We stopped at The Station Cafe on the way out, but the grill was closed due to the heat wave, so we enjoyed huckleberry shakes instead. It was obviously a long day by the time we drove home, but well worth it!

 

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Michael Weh
Michael Weh says:
Jul 10, 2024 11:38 PM

Great write up of a perfect day with outstanding company, Kurt. It was a pleasure to be on the hill with you to celebrate your completion of the Five Majors! Way to go and thanks for leading. Looking forward to the next one!